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This article was originally published in issue #49
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The RGAIX6U is a fantastic guitar from Ibanez with striking good looks, enough of a menacing presence to please the Metal players and incredibly good hardware for a decent price.
Stunning good looks
Amazing hardware for the price
Excellent and versatile tones
Very well built
Top level playability and comfort
None at this price
If a fire-breathing beast of a guitar is what you're after (and why wouldn't it be?) the name at the top of your list is very likely to be an Ibanez Iron Label. But with such a long list of candidates from the Japanese masters, where would you start? Tom Quayle has a suggestion...
Ibanez has had great success with the Iron Label series, producing guitars that are aimed at their most ‘Metal’ of fans, sporting stripped back visuals and hardware appointments chosen for affordability and high level performance. The latest guitar to come from the Iron Label stable is the catchily named ‘RGAIX6U’ derived from Ibanez’s RGA arch top RG series and somewhat of a unique beast compared to some of the other Iron Label guitars we’ve seen.
The RGAIX6U is a striking and impressive looking guitar in every respect, constructed from an ash body, three-piece maple and bubinga neck and a fine looking ebony fretboard. The RGA body shape is extremely reminiscent of the classic RG shape but with a carved top and deep contours on both cutaways for even better upper fret access. The back of the body features a very deep contour on the lower cutaway and a belly carve, plus the standard four bolt neck joint for lots of stability and vibration transfer from neck to body. It’s a superb design, perfectly combining beautiful curves with menacing horns and that classic Ibanez RG headstock.
The ash body has been stained to bring out the grain of both the body and matching headstock veneer. Combined with the white binding, black hardware and ebony fretboard you get a really striking looking guitar that is a really nice departure from the standard ‘more metal than metal’ black finish!
The impressive looks are matched by equally impressive hardware specs. A pair of amazing looking UK-made Bare Knuckle Aftermath humbuckers provide all the tonal options (plus some of the coolest looking pickup covers we’ve ever seen), with Gotoh MG-T locking tuners and an Ibanez Gibraltar Standard II bridge adding rock solid tuning stability and intonation. Ibanez has included a three way switch and coil tap for up to six different sounds, plus a volume control. Who needs a tone control whilst playing Metal anyway? The Gibraltar bridge design in particular has improved immensely over the years, from a hulking lump of metal that was uncomfortable to rest on and just in the way, to a very ergonomically designed bridge that is very functional and solid, with good performance and tone.
The build quality on our sample was exceptional, with absolutely no issues to speak of at all. The jumbo frets were finished to a very high standard, with slightly rolled fretboard edges making playability even more comfortable. All of the hardware is very solid with no rattles or extraneous noises whilst playing and all of the aesthetic appointments are top notch. This isn’t exactly a cheap guitar though, so great build quality should be expected at this price.
Playability is equally impressive thanks to those lovely deep cutaways, body contours and the Nitro Wizard neck profile. Ibanez describes the Nitro Wizard neck a ‘Super-Thin’ but it actually has more depth than you might think. It’s certainly thin, but not uncomfortably so for those used to playing something like a Les Paul and will feel very natural in the hand of existing Ibanez devotees, sporting the same dimensions as the legendary Wizard III neck found on much of the RG range.
Tonally, the RGAIX6U is an absolute beast of a guitar, thanks to the ash body and primarily those exceptional Bare Knuckle Aftermath pickups. Both pickups are passive, allowing for a less clinical tone than active ones but, whilst the neck pickup sports an Alnico magnet, the bridge variant houses a ceramic magnet for even more output and a bigger, more aggressive sound. In practice though, these pickups can go from a beautiful, dynamic, single coil clean tone in the neck position to all out raging Metal madness in the humbucking bridge position with ease. The level of clarity and detail is staggeringly good and goes a long way to excel this guitar from good to excellent in terms of tonal quality and versatility.
The RGAIX6U is a fantastic guitar from Ibanez with striking good looks, enough of a menacing presence to please the Metal players and incredibly good hardware for a decent price. That price is certainly in the upper end of the spectrum for the Iron Label range, but to have Bare Knuckle pickups and locking Gotoh tuners adds a great deal of value and professional level performance to this instrument. Ibanez has hit the nail on the head here and should have a hit on its hands. A must try for the Metal players and a very interesting guitar for Ibanez or pointy guitar fans to check out in general. It gets the coveted extra half a star because despite being in the factory-made price range, albeit near the top, you are getting a heck of a lot of guitar for your money here!